This game simply would not work in the UK – a five-hour margin of error does not make for an exciting or particularly tense experience. Luckily, unlike our horrendously overpriced, notoriously delayed and decidedly unpunctual rail services, Japan’s famously reliable trains run like absolute clockwork. Having experienced the service first hand when travelling across Japan last year, I did not experience a single delay during any of my 15+ train journeys. Japan is a country obsessed with the timeliness of its trains to the point in which even the most minor of delays will lead to a full apology from the conductor and a subsequent ‘delay certificate’ for employees needing to prove that their tardiness really was down to an incredibly rare train delay……just try asking for one of those from Arriva Trains.
As you can imagine, with such a proud record to uphold, there is quite a bit of pressure on conductors with the huge level of expectation and the tiny margin for error providing a constant source of stress for these brave public servants. Of course, for many of us (dare I say the majority of us), that all sounds far too stressful and decidedly, well, Japanese I suppose. Still, it’s always interesting to be able to step into the shoes of others without the fear of actually losing your livelihood if you mess things up, and that’s where Japanese Rail Sim 3D Monorail Trip to Okinawa comes in; a surprisingly enjoyable if still occasionally stressful experience that tasks you with running Okinawa’s Yui Lane line from Naha Kūkō airport station to Shuri Castle.
While that will sound overtly stressful / incredibly boring to many, in practice, this brief glimpse into the career of a Okinawan monorail conductor proves oddly compelling. Not only does the full motion video deliver a gorgeous and understandably lifelike view of Okinawa (albeit from the monorail’s raised tracks), but it also imbues the game with a real sense of authenticity. The 15 stop journey might well be truncated for obvious reasons, but in practice, you really do feel like you are responsible for the passengers on board. Still, as ‘authentic’ as the core experience might be, Monorail Trip to Okinawa is ‘gamified’ enough to provide a constant sense of challenge and enough in the way of player feedback to make return journeys an undeniably compelling proposition.
From managing your speed when pulling out of the station, not going over the limits on bends and somehow managing to stop your train bang on the mark, nothing in Monorail Trip to Okinawa is especially complex, but the constant array of mini challenges do keep you on your toes throughout. Stopping your train within a meter of the market might not sound overly challenging, but I was given my marching orders the first few times that I played the game, and while keeping within the limits does become easier as you progress, getting the top grades reserved for those with perfect punctuality and unwavering reliability proves a surprisingly sturdy challenge. If you do manage to ace each station, you are then treated to a night-time run that, while lacking the visual splendour of Okinawa’s sun-drenched days, does deliver a whole new set of unique challenges.
As you’d imagine, the controls themselves are all relatively straightforward, but whether you are using the d-pad or the touch screen controls (that include a simplified visualisation of the trains’ levers and buttons), the base mechanics work surprisingly well. There is a tangible sense of motion attached to the controls with minor amendments often having a notable effect on your attempts to work within the strict limits imposed by the big wigs at the Okinawan rail service. The full motion visuals do take a hit at slower speeds, but you’re often too busy managing your pace to really notice the odd effect that slower speeds have on the somewhat unique visual design.
You would think that an interest in trains would be essential to any gamer hoping to enjoy Japanese Rail Sim 3D Monorail Trip to Okinawa, but honestly, it’s amazing how much the gamification of the process adds to the overall experience. Yes, you are stuck on a fixed line between a fixed set of stations, but it’s easy to become obsessed with the minutiae of the process and the compelling challenging of managing an A-grade at every station. On top of that, there is the little matter of getting to explore an area of Japan that few Westerners manage to visit. With its Sega blue skies and uniquely tropical island vibe, having a brief look into the everyday life of a Okinawan train conductor proves almost as compelling as the gameplay itself.
REVIEW CODE: A complimentary Nintendo 3DS code was provided to Bonus Stage for this review. Please send all review code enquiries to firstname.lastname@example.org.
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Gameplay - /10
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